Langa Astigiana in and around Roccaverano
The Langa Astigiana is the last Sinaitic Langa (to quote Fenoglio) with its remote and unspoilt watchtowers, ancient chapels, terraces which bring some order to the impervious woods, its forgotten villages where goats prance around and where one of Italy's most extraordinary cheeses is made.
The landscape here is both a surprise and a guarantee, as is its little capital Roccaverano, where everything is exactly as it should be... Except for a Bramantesque Church that you would not expect (it was built in 1509 and commissioned by Bishop Enrico Bruno, treasurer of Julius II, and Cardinal Del Carretto did the same in Saliceto in the same period).
The square is a true medieval backdrop completed by the surviving façade of the Marquis' Palace and enhanced by the imposing 36-metre cylindrical Tower. Furthermore, the Robiola di Roccaverano DOP cheese can be tasted here: a unique and inimitable masterpiece of goat's milk, as are the herbs which are blessed by the marin, the warm Ligurian wind that blows here full of nostalgia and suggestions. We continue on to San Giovanni to admire the frescoes painted by the Master of Roccaverano and see, probably, the last medieval cemetery in the Langa. Just enough time to take a look at the colourful sculptures of the Quarelli Park and you are already descending through a semi-mountainous landscape of crumbling gullies until you reach the ridge of Mombaldone, the only Astigiano village in this valley and the archetype of all medieval villages with its distinctive city gate, stone houses gathered around a single street and the Del Carretto Palace (the castle is no longer there).
From here you go back along the ridge through the hamlet of Garbaoli, ready to reach Bric Puschera and the small village below: Serole. The road "meanders" around the jagged hillside until it eventually arrives near Cortemilia (it. Alta Langa of the Bormida) and then continues on to Perletto, going right past the Pieve and Monteoliveto, a terraced masterpiece which is now home to the Ecomuseo dei Terrazzamenti della Vite (Vine Terraces Ecomuseum). Here, once again, the vineyards decorate the sunny slopes, while the Tower of Perletto suddenly emerges from the ridge, it is the centre of another ancient and well-ordered stone village.
Next, we go down to the Excelsior, the landing strip built by the partisans for the British pilots, a story which is told in the beautiful museum of Vesime, our next stop. We have crossed the Bormida and the left bank is definitely steeper, but the climb from the Town Hall up to the romantic ruins of the castle will pay off. Now we go back to Roccaverano on the main road. The two stops along the ridge are San Giorgio Scarampi with its tower and Olmo Gentile (with a tower too) which actually look like two paintings rather than two villages.
Texts by Pietro Giovannini
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Along the way:
Point of interest along the way
1 Via Roma
1 Via Roma